The man, the mission and the ministry

Categories: Around the Diocese

Pastoral leaders reminisce about Bishop Kinney

Since his arrival in 1995, countless stories of Bishop John Kinney’s guidance, service and his love of celebrating the sacraments have been woven into teh fabric of his tenure, threaded with compassion, laughter, mission and hope.

One of his first tasks was carefully tailoring a diocesan mission statement with the help of various leadership groups across the diocese. It took almost a year to complete. What emerged was a pattern to live by — to be Christ’s “heart of mercy, voice of hope and hands of justice.”

At the request of The Visitor, priests, a deacon and lay leaders stitched together a tapestry of Bishop Kinney’s commitment to live out the mission he put into practice.

Heart of mercy

“Bishop Kinney has always been pastoral,” said Rita Clasemann, parish life coordinator for the twinned parishes of St. Mary in Mora and


Bishop Kinney receives praise for caring about each parish and each parish minister and exuding a peaceful confidence that is contagious.

St. Kathryn in Ogilvie. “He cares about each parish and each parish minister and exudes a peaceful confidence that is contagious.

“It is obvious he has loved to connect with our young people at confirmations and youth rallies, candidates to the church at the Rite of Election and married couples on Honoring Marriage Day. Each person comes away feeling truly special.”

For Father Steve Binsfeld, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Alexandria, and former rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Bishop Kinney was his pastor and brother in ministry as well as being his bishop.

“When my father died in 2000, Bishop Kinney was most gracious and solicitous for my well-being through my sorrow,” Father Binsfeld said. “He was a good pastor for me at that time. I will not forget his kindness.”

Father Binsfeld also recalled Bishop Kinney’s love of liturgy and compassion for the entire community outside the walls of the church.

“The cathedral was always open to gathering the city in prayer,” he said. “I particularly remember the gathering after the tragic attack on 9/11. Bishop Kinney was right on board to hold a liturgy that afternoon after the working hours. Word went out immediately. He was most gracious to the leaders of other church denominations who led the service with him.

“I also remember replacing the ‘swastika’ disks on the cathedral and Bishop Kinney holding the blessing ceremony with Rabbi Joseph Edelheit,” he continued. “Both liturgies were highlights in my mind and examples of his style of leadership. His motto was, ‘Be open to where God is leading you.’ “


Bishop Kinney addresses young people during the final liturgy of A Call to Service.

Deacon Tom Pinataro, when preparing for his diaconate ordination, appreciated the wisdom of Bishop Kinney. Ways to value priests were among the bishop’s suggestions for Deacon Pinataro, who is now parish life coordinator at SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Braham.

“I have been blessed,” Deacon Pinataro said, “to work with several priests over the years and who have guided my formation and ministry. The bishop’s advice was wise and it has been easy to follow.”

Voice of hope

Father Gene Doyle, pastor of Mary of the Visitation Parish in Becker and Big Lake and chairperson of the diocesan presbyteral council, identified Bishop Kinney as a visionary, often looking ahead to see where the church needed to go without neglecting the present or forgetting the past.

“He saw his relationship with priests and deacons as coworkers in the sacramental life of the church,” Father Doyle said. “He saw lay leaders as coworkers in his ministry to the people of the diocese. He knew it was his responsibility to serve as bishop, but he valued the collective effort of all. He was not afraid to confront many of the serious issues that the church needed to face.”

Father Doyle said that the diocesan planning process was a key achievement.

“Parts of parish planning had already been in place when he became the ordinary,” he said, “but he took it to a new level. Then for many years he supported and encouraged the Diocesan Planning Office to work with each region of the diocese to do planning because he recognized the shortage of available priests in the near future as well as shifts in population and changing needs in each region.”


In the presence of priests of the diocese, Bishop Kinney pours fragrance into oil that will be consecrated into the sacred chrism.

Deb Rudolph, pastoral associate at St. Francis Xavier Parish, Sartell, agreed.

“Bishop Kinney understood the need to plan for a future with fewer priests to serve. During his tenure he encouraged lay ministers to seek education, excellence in ministry and personal faith development in response to their call to participate in the building of the kingdom of God in this diocese,” she said.

“His support of ‘listening sessions’ throughout the diocese allowed parishioners to be heard and respected. The people needed to be a part of the process from the very beginning. Opening dialogue, teaching respect for varied opinions, allowing voices to be heard and calling all to participation is indeed an achievement.

“I also hold dear the memories of Bishop Kinney with the hundreds of students I prepared for the sacrament of confirmation,” she added. “He was always so open and inviting with them, able to get them to open up and talk about their faith. His homilies addressed not only the students, but also their parents and sponsors. His message was always one of faith calling for action — living out our shared faith in Jesus Christ by showing love for one another.”

Hands of justice

Retired priest Father Stan Wieser worked closely with Bishop Kinney on various boards and committees and was instrumental in early work in the diocese with the Hispanic population.

“What I appreciated most,” Father Weiser said, “was his support and understanding of multicultural ministry.

“Working with migrant farm workers was a seasonal ministry,” he explained. “Our diocese responded well as Hispanic people began to settle in. Other groups also came. Bishop Kinney had the vision to see that multiculturalism was not a debate but a reality we needed to accept and deal with.”

Clasemann, as a parish life coordinator, also appreciated Bishop Kinney’s global vision.

“Bishop Kinney’s strong sense of mission, especially in establishing our relationship with our sister parish in Homa Bay, Kenya, is one of his greatest achievements,” Clasemann said. “This sense of mission then radiated through the diocese, encouraging parishes to establish sister relationships, too. I consider the many friendships and mission connections the Diocese of St. Cloud has with Nicaragua, Guatemala, Venezuela, Mexico, Tanzania, South Sudan, Zanzibar and other parts of the world. Bishop Kinney’s vision helped us to see ourselves as truly part of the global church.”

Rudolph concurred.

“Bishop Kinney is committed to being a diocese of mission and global solidarity in the relationship with our sister diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya,” Rudolph said. “In his implementation, personal commitment to and modeling of all as brothers and sisters in faith, he has opened the eyes and the hearts of people bridging cultural divides to teach that all of humanity is made in the image of God.”

In addition to the Homa Bay partnership, Father Doyle noted Bishop Kinney’s commitment to the global church through the development of the partnership with Maracay, Venezuela.

“He brought our relationship with the Diocese of Maracay to a new level,” he said. “No longer do we see that diocese as a ‘mission’ church, but real ‘partners’ along with our sister diocese in Homa Bay, Kenya. Being the liaison of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops to Catholic Relief Services gave Bishop Kinney a keen awareness of the global church, and he saw the need that the local church must always interact with the church abroad.”

Father Doyle added that Bishop Kinney was on the forefront of calling his fellow bishops to “seriously confront the issue of sexual misconduct by priests because he believed that the church needed to own up to its responsibility to make sure that those who are most vulnerable be protected. Sadly, at the time, much of this fell on deaf ears. Yet, he continued to take the issue very seriously and saw the importance of calling for and participating in the listening sessions in our diocese.”

“I commend Bishop Kinney for his deep faith in Jesus Christ,” Rudolph said. “The best advice

I ever heard him give was, ‘Fall in love with Jesus Christ.’ “

Kristie Anderson